CATO OP-EDS

Ryan Bourne The UK’s labour market performance continues to confound. The employment rate is at its highest level since figures began in 1971. Unemployment is at its lowest rate since early in 1975. Yet a supposed bogeyman still stalks the workforce statistics: the near million folk who identify as being on zero-hours contracts (ZHCs) for their main job. Since the steep increase in this prevalence from 2013, the Labour party has made hay of the 901,000 people currently contracted without guaranteed hours of work. It is evidence, they say, of a jobs market characterised by low wages, few benefits, little security and scant hope of building human capital. Despite these workers representing just 2.8pc of overall employment, ZHCs have become the totemic issue in the debate about labour market regulation. In their 2017 manifesto, Labour promised to ban them entirely. The virulence of this criticism is wrong-headed. ZHCs can clearly be mutually beneficial for employers and employees. But Jeremy Corbyn and co never stop to ask why companies may have expanded their use in recent years. Are bosses simply greedier than half a decade ago? That seems unlikely. The wider acknowledgement and awareness from workers of what ZHCs are may have contributed to their burgeoning number in official statistics. But new evidence suggests they may also be a consequence of a policy the [...]
Thu, Feb 21, 2019
Source: OP-EDS
Ted Galen Carpenter A key worry among American critics of NATO is that expanding the alliance into Eastern Europe may entangle the United States in conflicts that have little or no relevance to our genuine security needs. But the 2011 NATO intervention in Libya is a reminder that even Washington’s long-time allies like France and Britain can create the same danger. In their memoirs, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates reveal (at times perhaps unintentionally) how those nations prodded the reluctant Obama administration into taking such a fateful step in Libya. Clinton herself was favorable to “humanitarian” military missions, while Gates was openly hostile, yet their accounts track closely, confirming how much of an impact allied lobbying had on American decision-making. As rebellions against authoritarian regimes erupted throughout the Greater Middle East in late 2010 and early 2011 (the so-called Arab Spring), the United States and its European allies pondered how to respond. Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi was the target of one uprising. Obama officials reveal how relentlessly our ‘allies’ lobbied for this ill-advised regime change war. At first, even Clinton seemed wary of U.S. involvement in any military action to unseat Gaddafi. “When I met with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, he urged the United States to support international military intervention to stop Qaddafi’s advance toward the rebel stronghold of Benghazi in [...]
Thu, Feb 21, 2019
Source: OP-EDS
Doug Bandow The driving force behind American foreign policy in recent years has been hubris. The United States sees itself as the essential unipower, endowed with the right, indeed the duty, to intervene around the world. Any nation that gets in the way must be crushed—but in a moral, compassionate way. Fortunately, President Donald Trump rejects Full Neocon, the foreign policy equivalent of the Full Monty. In his State of the Union speech, he declared: “Great countries do not fight endless wars.” He appears ready to pull U.S. troops out of Syria and Afghanistan. Unfortunately, hubris continues to dominate his administration’s policy towards another nation: Iraq. The Bush administration invaded Iraq based on a lie and a fantasy. The former was Baghdad’s supposed possession of a nuclear program; the latter was the expectation that adoring acolytes would enthusiastically create America on the Euphrates. He recognizes the folly of staying in Syria and Afghanistan forever. So why is Baghdad the exception? Thousands of Americans died, tens of thousands of U.S. personnel were injured, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis perished, and millions were displaced in a crescendo of sectarian violence. The indigenous Christian community was destroyed. Out of the war emerged al-Qaeda in Iraq, which eventually morphed into the Islamic State. Only with substantial assistance from Washington and other governments was the Iraqi military able to liberate ISIS territory. Meanwhile, [...]
Thu, Feb 21, 2019
Source: OP-EDS
Doug Bandow Great countries do not fight endless wars,” intoned President Donald Trump in his State of the Union address, and he is right. Certainly, nations that do fight them don’t stay great, which should serve as a powerful warning for American policymakers. Alas, the Washington blob, the bipartisan foreign-policy elite that has kept the United States at war for years, appears to have learned nothing. Indeed, members of Congress didn’t greet the president’s pronouncement with much enthusiasm. Legislators had voted against his plan to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria and Afghanistan. Members also had opposed his stated interest in doing the same from South Korea. These are the same congressmen who can’t be bothered to fulfill their constitutional responsibility to approve America’s wars, yet they fear the president might end one. Indeed, some Washington policymakers reject any accountability. Five years ago Samantha Power, one of the high tribunes of humanitarian military intervention, reflected on what most Americans recognize to be years of disastrous war-making: “I think there is too much of, ‘Oh, look, this is what intervention has wrought’ … one has to be careful about overdrawing lessons.” But they must be drawn. And the lessons from America’s recent decades of intervention and war have not been pretty. For instance, Ronald Reagan took the United States into Lebanon’s bitter civil war, backing the “national” government, which [...]
Thu, Feb 21, 2019
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Neal McCluskey This coming Sunday will mark the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Tinker v. Des Moines, which famously intoned that public school students and teachers don’t “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” Some may hear about the celebrated ruling and think it ended any notion that public school officials can fetter expression. But as the Cato Institute’s Public Schooling Battle Map illustrates, it did not. Student and teacher expression is frequently curbed, and often for understandable reasons. Within the Tinker ruling, the irresolvable conflict in public schooling is laid bare: government must not curb free expression—see the First Amendment—but public schools, which are government institutions, sometimes must fetter speech to effectively educate. For instance, the Court wrote, “Clearly, the prohibition of expression…at least without evidence that it is necessary to avoid material and substantial interference with schoolwork or discipline [emphasis added], is not constitutionally permissible.” As the Battle Map, an interactive database of values- and identity-based conflicts in public schools reveals, the need to maintain order is just one concern among many that has spurred public school officials to restrain speech. Administrators have also curbed expression they feared would render a school inhospitable, even threatening, to students from minority groups. They have spiked articles in student newspapers they thought were unfair to [...]
Thu, Feb 21, 2019
Source: OP-EDS
John Glaser Russian President Vladimir Putin has issued a clear warning to the United States: If Washington deploys new intermediate-range missiles in Europe, Moscow will, too. The context behind this threat is President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Negotiated in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, the INF was a fairly successful arms-control agreement in which each party agreed to eliminate a whole class of missiles. In recent years, both sides accused each other of failing to fully uphold the agreement. Instead of pursuing diplomacy to resolve the dispute, Trump ordered a unilateral withdrawal, accompanied by a promise to start deploying the prohibited weapons. Putin’s threat might seem like cause for alarm, but Americans should keep two things in mind. First, hard-line policies against Russia increase the likelihood that Russia will respond in kind. From Moscow’s perspective, this is a reaction to an onslaught of provocations from Washington. For all the allegations of Trump’s weakness on Russia, the administration’s official strategy documents single out Russia as a principal threat to U.S. security. Washington tends to inflate the threat from Moscow, while simultaneously ignoring U.S. policies that exacerbate tensions. In addition to withdrawing from the INF, Washington has imposed harsh economic sanctions on Moscow as punishment for meddling in Ukraine. Other U.S. policies contribute to Russian feelings of insecurity. Trump has [...]
Wed, Feb 20, 2019
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Colin Grabow Americans would probably be surprised to learn that, at least in the energy sector, the island of Puerto Rico is currently under a de facto embargo imposed by Congress. Incredibly, Puerto Rico finds it impossible to import U.S. liquefied natural gas — not despite being part of the United States, but because of it. Earlier this month, senior Democrats and Republicans sent a letter to the Trump administration demanding that this proverbial embargo be kept in place. If that sounds unbelievable, you’re probably not familiar with an obscure shipping law called the Jones Act. Passed in 1920, the Jones Act mandates that ships transporting goods between two points in the United States must be U.S.-built, U.S.-owned, U.S.-crewed and U.S.-flagged. Of the 478 ships in the world capable of transporting liquefied natural gas, however, none meet these requirements. Democrats and Republicans are aligned on a law that denies Puerto Rico’s access to U.S. energy supplies and condemns them to purchasing more expensive LNG from elsewhere. That’s a problem for Puerto Rico, which relies on LNG for 34 percent of its electricity generation and would like to use more to replace some of the oil and coal that produce 64 percent of its electricity. But with no ships to transport it, cheap U.S.-produced LNG has effectively been placed off limits. And so, even while [...]
Wed, Feb 20, 2019
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George Selgin Of many bold ideas pitched in Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s proposed “Green New Deal,” the boldest may be her plan for paying its multitrillion-dollar price tag. We can do it, she said in a blog post that has since been removed from her website, “in the same ways that we paid for the 2008 bank bailout and the extended quantitative easing programs, the same ways we paid for World War II and many other wars.” In other words, we can have the Federal Reserve pay for it. Wouldn’t having the Fed pick up the tabs for multitrillion-dollar projects cause inflation? Not long ago, it would have. But during the subprime crisis, the Fed took steps that severed the once relatively tight link between the amount of government debt it took on and the tendency of prices to increase. As a result, it’s now more tempting than ever for politicians to expect the Fed to serve not just as the banking system’s lender of last resort, but as the government’s financier of first resort. It’s now more tempting than ever for politicians to expect the Fed to serve not just as the banking system’s lender of last resort, but as the government’s financier of first resort. The Fed used to have a good excuse for not financing big projects Before the crisis, the Fed [...]
Wed, Feb 20, 2019
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Michael D. Tanner Some 20 years ago, Paul Begala, then an adviser to President Bill Clinton, expressed his marvel at the ability of the president to act unilaterally. “Stroke of the pen. Law of the land. Kinda cool.” And, of course, we all remember President Obama’s assertion that he could bypass Congress as long as he had “a pen and a phone.” Obama used that pen and phone not only to implement DACA but to rewrite parts of the Affordable Care Act, to circumvent the constitutional requirement that Congress approve treaties, and to target US citizens with drone strikes. In fact, DACA may turn out to be the most defensible of Obama’s presidential power grabs. For decades, Congress has been abdicating its role in our constitutional structure, ceding more and more power to a monarchical presidency. In between, President George W. Bush declared unilateral presidential authority to “nullify statutes and court judgments” by refusing to enforce them, acting on the basis of his independent legal judgment. Perhaps most notoriously, when Congress passed an amendment to an emergency defense-appropriations bill prohibiting torture during the interrogation of suspected terrorists, President Bush issued a signed statement asserting that he was not bound by it. And while the War on Terror was the biggest impetus for Bush’s accretion of presidential power, he also asserted the unilateral power to act [...]
Wed, Feb 20, 2019
Source: OP-EDS
Ryan Bourne The reaction was predictable. Last week’s Climate Strike by schoolchildren was met with an inane debate about whether or not the pupils were right to “play truant”. This dialogue of the deaf was a missed opportunity. Politicians should take seriously the protesters’ demand that they “recognise that young people have the biggest stake in our future”. How we weigh policies which differentially impact today’s adults and future generations has been a recurring undercurrent of the last decade of British politics — including on deficit reduction and Brexit. It’s time we asked whether we get the balance right. The children who went on strike last week were right to argue that future generations get a raw deal in policymaking. But this is a structural flaw of government action that extends far beyond carbon emissions. Government policies shape the use of vast economic resources. Underpinning all decisions are judgements about the relative importance of the present against the future. State action to curb carbon emissions, for example, requires avoiding cheaper fuels today for investment in technologies with future payoffs. End-of-life healthcare, in contrast, means expending resources today that society could otherwise deploy into research and development spending or tax cuts to induce innovation and higher living standards in future. Climate policy is all about balancing the interests of current and future populations. Comparing different policies over time requires governments to assume a [...]
Tue, Feb 19, 2019
Source: OP-EDS

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